There's no question that the creepster vibe is intentional in writer/director James Schroeder's darkly humorous indie horror/thriller flick Nicole, a #MeToo tinged spine-chiller with a vibe somewhat reminiscent of that Octavia Spencer-led film Ma that was uneven but so deliriously weird that you couldn't help but enjoy it.
The same is true here.
Nicole (Tamika Shannon) presents with a sort of guttural chill in the air around her, a semblance of normalcy that we know rather quickly isn't quite right even as we follow her fairly mundane routine in the workplace and at home. We meet her briefly as a child in a scene that sets the tone in terms of the mystery and mayhem that is about to follow. While I'll confess to having preferred perhaps a little more mystery, the scene unfolds naturally and Schroeder keeps control of things rather nicely.
Nicole is the kind of office recluse who seems normal, her mildly friendly relationship with one particular co-worker (Ke-Shawn Bussey) the only real indicator of human connection. So, it comes as a bit of a surprise when she agrees to a Tinder date with John (Stephen Wesley Green).
John is, well, not like Nicole. That much is obvious. He's confident. Really confident.
Oh, and he fully intends to get laid.
The date goes just about as well as one might expect. It's the kind of date where one usually excuses oneself to go to the restroom and never returns. Nicole, on the other hand, sticks around but drinks.
Things spiral almost exactly the direction you expect them to spiral, John's intentions ever more obvious while Nicole's never quite obvious. We're more than a little surprised when Nicole invites him back to her place.
At a mere 74 minute running time, Nicole tells its story effectively and efficiently. While the film never feels rushed, perhaps owing to the story itself being rather slight, everything unfolds rather breezily and, at times, quite hilariously.
It's doubtful that much of Nicole will be surprising and there's nary a moment in the film when you won't fully realize it's a low-budget indie effort mostly courtesy of production quality that's a notch or two below your usual wide-release efforts. For the most part, however, you won't mind as Tamika Shannon is a rather dark and demented joy as Nicole and Stephen Wesley Green, well, he sells it from beginning to end is the best way to say it without giving things away.
The film picked up the Silver Award for Narrative Feature at the Virgin Spring Cinefest and also took home Best Indie Feature at Underground Indie Film Festival, both awards deserving and indicative of the film's microcinema roots. Jeff Dillon's lensing is a nice weaving together of domestic normalcy meets absolute unpredictability. Music by Michael Barnes, Josh Coleman, and Raoul Klokow is creative and inspired.
There's a lot more that could be said about Nicole, but the brevity of the film's running time demands that the film be experienced rather than described. While it's not necessarily a film for the gorehounds, leaning more toward thriller, it's a creative and intelligent film that is worth checking out. The film is currently available for Amazon Prime viewers and James Schroeder is a filmmaker to be watched for in the future.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic